In West and Central Africa, we support child protection systems to prevent and respond to child violence, abuse and exploitation.
Violence, abuse and exploitation of children in West and Central Africa are tragic aspects of childhood. Surveys show that the vast majority of children experience violent discipline. Nearly one in three teenage girls have been beaten or hit since the age of 15, and one in 10 raped or sexually abused.
Child marriage – a serious violation of children’s rights – affects four in 10 girls aged 20–24 who were married before their 18th birthday. The region also has a quarter of all girl victims of female genital mutilation and cutting, and the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world.
Despite significant progress in improving civil registration and vital statistics systems, birth registration rates in the region are low and declining in some countries. Less than half of all children under five in West and Central Africa are registered at birth.
Children in the region are especially affected by migration. Many are currently on the move, either unaccompanied or traveling with their families. Migration involves plucking children from their homes, schools and communities, which can be hugely disruptive, stressful and dangerous.
Armed conflict, which plagues some of the region’s countries, has also put the lives of children in serious danger. Children are experiencing grave child rights in violations such as killing, injury, recruitment by armed forces or groups, sexual violence, abduction, denial of humanitarian assistance and attacks on schools and hospitals.
Violence and Exploitation
Ending violence, abuse and exploitation of children means bringing together many different actors to work together. UNICEF supports countries and partners to develop and carry out systemic and multi-sector programmes with a focus on sexual violence, violence in and around schools, and physical violence. In addition, countries are assisted to develop preparedness, prevention and response initiatives for children protection during conflict and other disasters.
Child marriage threatens girls' education, health, emotional well-being, and the health of their children. To put an end to this harmful practice and support children, UNICEF works with countries to galvanize political will, develop laws, provide health care to women and girls affected by female genital mutilation/cutting and mobilize communities to change behaviour.
Birth registration is a passport to protection for children and provides them with access to social services. UNICEF works with countries to increase birth registration rates through the health system and in remote communities, as well as modernizing civil registration and vital statistic systems.